15 Jan 2021

HORIZON BLOG: Research and innovation in the next EU budget

The European Commission is working on a new proposal for its 2021-2027 multiannual budget, which is to be paired with a recovery plan aimed at helping the EU come out of the looming recession set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, we gather the latest news and reactions to how the EU is planning to fund its research and innovation programmes during the difficult period ahead.

Tips are welcome at [email protected].

 

The European Commission today launched a centre aimed at setting up a collaborative digital space for cultural heritage conservation and providing access to data, metadata, standards, and guidelines.

The €3 million three-year project, funded by the EU’s research programme, Horizon 2020, will be coordinated by Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics.

On the same day, the Commission also launched two €1 million Horizon 2020 funded education projects focused on advancing digital innovation in schools.

 

Spain today approved its main biomedical and health research programme, which in 2021 will disperse €134 million in grants, 33.3% more than in 2020. On the same day, the government also approved a €115 million nine-year financing package for the national supercomputing centre, which will mainly finance the roll out of a new EU-supported supercomputer, MareNostrum5, in Barcelona.

Next year, the reinforced health programme, which may be topped up by another €55 million if the EU approves Spain’s recovery plans, will finance research projects, give bigger salaries to post-doctoral students, and include a new special instrument for emerging infectious diseases research.

 

The European Commission last week signed a collaboration agreement with the World Meteorological Organisation, a United Nations body that promotes international cooperation on the state and behaviour of the earth’s atmosphere.

The new collaboration will support Green Deal research and innovation, Horizon Europe missions dedicated to saving oceans and strengthening Europe’s climate resilience, and the deployment of independent earth observation systems, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. There are a total of 12 areas of collaboration in the new agreement ranging from climate change and coastal zone management to health and transportation.

 

The German Research Foundation (DFG) will invest €25 million in seven new research projects, expanding the funder’s current 162 project portfolio.

The new projects will analyse how teeth replacement materials interact with teeth tissue; inquire what counts as a good life; study how a person’s sex influences their immune system; research how natural substances produced by fungi, cytochalasans, influence other organisms on a cellular level; carry out socioeconomic studies on competition in higher education; investigate the link between the distribution of ions in solids and their transport properties; and examine how groundwater flowing into the sea affects coastal ecosystems.

 

EU ambassadors Friday night reached an agreement on a new five-year €1.38 billion (in current prices) research and training programme for improving nuclear energy safety and radiation protection, Euratom.

Of the €1.38 billion, €583 million will be invested in fusion power research, €266 billion in nuclear fission, safety and radiation protection, and the remaining €532 million will be dedicated to research carried out by the EU’s science hub, the Joint Research Council.

Complementing the EU’s research programme, Euratom will be governed under the same rules and instruments as Horizon Europe, including supporting researcher exchanges with the help of the mobility programme, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).

 

The European Commission has selected 38 promising start-ups  to receive between €1 and €17 million to develop and scale up ground-breaking innovations.

This is the last round of funding in the pilot phase of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator and it received over 4,200 applications, the highest number ever.

Proposals include the development of a new device for rapid detection of sepsis and a robotic sorting technology for reducing hazardous waste.

“This huge demand for European Innovation Council support demonstrates that Europe has no shortage of excellent ideas for breakthrough technologies and innovations,” said EU research commissioner Maryia Gabriel.

 

A new non-profit association to advance the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) has elected Karel Luyben, the rector magnificus emeritus of Delft University of Technology, as its first president.  Established as a legal entity on 29th July 2020, the EOSC Association was founded by GÉANT, CESAER, CSIC and GARR and has since attracted 114 research preforming organisations, 12 research funding organisations and 57 service providing associations as provisional members.

The Association is working with the European Commission to co-design and deploy a “European Research Data Commons” in which data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR), and as open as possible. The goal is to support the development of interoperable services that address the entire research data life cycle, from discovery to storage, management, analysis and re-use across borders and scientific disciplines. The Association hopes to help bring about a global ‘web of FAIR data and related services for science’ that will generate new insights and innovations, higher research productivity and improved reproducibility in science.

Luyben had been the chair of the EOSC executive board, an advisory group set up by the Commission to support the development of the science cloud. The European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA), the European University Association (EUA), the League of European Research Universities (LERU), Science Europe and The Guild issued letters of endorsements for Luyben’s nomination.

 

Five new eminent scientists have been appointed as members of the governing body of the European Research Council (ERC), the Scientific Council.

Two of the new members, Liselotte Højgaard of the University of Copenhagen and Dirk Inzé of Ghent University are in the field of life sciences. The other three, Alice Valkárová of Charles University in Prague, Rodrigo Martins of NOVA University, and Nicola Spaldin of ETH Zürich are working in physical sciences and engineering.

Mariya Gabriel, EU’s commissioner for research and innovation said the new members will be “bringing additional scientific competence to the governing board of the ERC.”

The Commission has also announced today that is has extended the current European Research Council until the adoption of Horizon Europe, next year. In addition to the five new Scientific Council members, the Commission reappointed 16 current members for the same period.

 

Swedish medtech company Cellink is now worth over $1 billion, making it the first unicorn supported by the EU’s start-up funding body, the European Innovation Council (EIC).

The company, which sells the world’s most cost-effective bioprinters used by researchers to develop cancer tumour models for drug testing, has received €5.4 million from the EIC in two funding rounds.

 

The European battery community this week launched a new alliance, the Batteries European Partnership Association (BEPA), to coordinate efforts of the new EU public-private partnership for battery innovation.

The alliance counts 137 members, including 54 companies, 56 research organisations, and 27 associations, that will contribute to the joint effort to innovate the European battery value chain under the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe.

The partnership will aim to boost competitiveness and sustainability of the EU's batteries market, which is key to powering the clean energy transition that requires the electrification of key industrial sectors, such as transport – for which battery storage is key.

The alliance is set to sign an official agreement with the European Commission in April 2021, laying the foundation for the new partnership. BEPA’s role will include coming up with a battery R&I roadmap; overseeing research projects; reinforcing networks between industry, researchers and universities; and supporting the development of EU regulations on batteries.

 

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